Backpack from office chair

Office chairs recycled into backpacks in university project

Image credit: Birmingham City University

A team at Birmingham City University is working on a project to recycle office chairs into new useful items, such as rucksacks and bicycle panniers.

More than 810,000 office chairs are thrown away every year in the UK. While some of their parts can be recycled, many of these bulky objects are dumped in landfill sites.

In order to reduce the amount of office waste cluttering up landfill sites, Thomas Howell-Jones, a Birmingham City University undergraduate, is carrying out a project to reuse parts of office chairs to create new items. Howell-Jones has created a product named Rest, which takes the backrests of old office chairs and transforms them into new items.

According to Howell-Jones, the inspiration for Rest struck him after collecting old office chairs, hoping to find a sustainable way to use them. After pulling apart several of the chairs, he found that the hard plastic backs could be used as protective, impact-proof containers.

“Realising that a backpack was possible from office chair waste was the turning point for the project,” said Howell-Jones.

After attempting to create several other items, Howell-Jones decided that the salvaged backrests functioned best as bags. The large rucksacks and panniers are waterproof and impact-proof, making them ideal for cyclists, as well as pedestrians.

Bicycle pannier from office chair

Birmingham City University

Image credit: Birmingham City University

“Materialising the office chair backrest shell allowed Rest to be as functional as possible, whilst also supplying an impact resistance and waterproof bag. The process from realisation to outcome was very enjoyable and I now look forward to developing the range.”

In the future, the student hopes to transform other common waste materials, such as the inner tubes of bicycles, into functional everyday products.

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